I realized that I hadn’t even seen Paolo since I told him I was pregnant. I hadn’t even thought of him–oops.
So when he called to ask me for a date, I suggested that he meet me at the clinic after what was scheduled to be my final prenatal check-up.
He was so sad when I saw him standing at the corner in front of the clinic.
“Is the appointment with the doctor of delivery over?” he asked.
“It was with a nurse practitioner,” I said. “But, yeah. It’s done. Clean bill of health for me and the baby!”
“But I wanted to be there,” he said. “Look at the size of you! How did this happen?”
“It’s called pregnancy,” I said.
“Oh no, that is not the meaning of the intent. I am so sorry. You are so beautiful. I wanted to be there. I wanted to see the swelling of you. No, not the swelling. The growth of the mama. Like the rose and the apple on the tree. And how did this happen? How did it go so fast that now the time is at the arrival?”
And here I thought he didn’t care!
“Would you like to feel your baby?” I asked.
“It is OK? I can touch the bebê?”
As he put his hand on my belly, the baby gave one of his huge kicks.
“Ah! He is the player of the futebol! He is the he? Or no, he is the she?”
I told him that I didn’t know–I didn’t look at the ultrasounds since I wanted to be surprised. But I shared what Ulrike had told me, and I said that Beryl and I, too, think that the baby is a little boy.
“I am going to be the pai! Paolo the pai!” he said. He really is adorable, Paolo is. Geesh, do I really feel that? I do. In spite of it all, he seems so innocent. We had never really talked–I mean, there just wasn’t time for many words when we were heading to the closet those two times. I realized I knew next to nothing about him, and I wanted know.
We went inside and he told me all about his family. His grandfather was a printer. His shop specialized in broadsheets of work by poets like Sidónio Muralha and Fernando Pessoa.
“The grandfather of me, he cut the pictures in the wood for the poems of them,” Paolo said. “These are very beautiful. Very famous. Very beautiful.”
Paolo’s father is an artisan, a furniture maker. “All the world wants the tables of him!” said Paolo. His mother had been an aspiring opera singer in her youth, but as her career began to demand more traveling, she gave it up, so she could stay home to raise her five boys.
His brothers are all professionals in Barcelona: a doctor, a professor, a commodities investor, and an attorney. Paolo had planned to work with his father, but his skill as a soccer player turned his fate, bringing him here. An injury eighteen months ago halted his career, and now, he picks up odd jobs as he can.
“I want for not much,” he said. “The dance, the party, the… the life! This is enough. And now, the bebê!”
“You two are so cute together,” said a woman at the bar with us. “Newlyweds?”
“Oh, no,” I said. “We’re not married. We won’t be. He’s the dad, but, yeah. We’re not exactly a couple.”
Paolo laughed. “It is the understanding,” he said. “The understanding of amar.”
After the woman left, I asked Paolo, “What’s your father’s name? And your mother’s.”
“Ah, meu pai is called Carlos Rocca, and minha mãe is called by Isabella Fernanda de la Maria de Rocca.”
I began to laugh.
“The name has humor?” he asked.
“No, not the name. It’s mother! Mãe! My name. My name is Mae.”
While I was laughing, the first contraction came.
“O, meu Deus!” Paolo shouted. “The time! She has arrived!”
“When I had my first baby,” said the bartender, “I was in labor for thirty-nine hours and forty-two minutes. Finally, I just said, ‘Get me a freakin’ epidural and get this thing out.’ It was rugged. ‘Course with the next one, she came in an hour and a half. But you never know, that’s all I’m saying. You could have the baby here, you could have it in the cab on the way home, you could have it three days from now after a world of pain.”
The contractions were still quite a ways apart. I called Beryl, called a cab, and then I went to take a nap on the couch while we waited. I wanted to be rested when the time for pushing came.
We heard the cab honk, and Paolo raced out the back door. “Vou pegar o táxi!” he shouted. And I didn’t see him the rest of the day.
I walked out the front and called for another cab.
When I got home, Beryl raced out and gave me a big hug. “The midwife is on her way! She actually had another delivery, but that woman is at ten centimeters so she thinks it will be any moment, and the toilet clogged so I’ve been plunging it but I’ve just about got it plunged but there’s a big puddle so I’m going to mop, and thank God, you’re home. Are you breathing?”
“Yes,” I said. “I’m breathing. Are you?”
“God, no!” laughed Beryl. “I’m too excited to breathe!”
I came inside and changed into my PJs, and then, before the midwife even arrived, the contractions were so strong. I had to push. I just had to.
Beryl was still in the bathroom mopping. I was breathing, so I couldn’t say, “It’s time.” All I could think was “Eesh. Eesh. Oooh,” over and over, like the crazy refrain of a monkey song.
And then, before I knew it, I was holding Charlie Rocca Cups in my arms, looking into his soft brown eyes that didn’t hold the ghost of my dad or the spark of my grandfather but that shone so deeply and so purely with all of the being of this perfect little baby.
His laugh is golden.
I am so in love.
When he sleeps, all I can do is stand and look at him.
His little nose! His fingers. I want to eat them. I want to devour his toes.
And when he wakes, he makes these little gurgles of happiness.
Then he laughs.
He kicked with his left leg and threw out his right arm, and I recognized that movement–that’s the same move he made inside of me.
And when he screams! Oh! When he screams, the roof cracks down and my nipples leak and I feel a spasm in my uterus, and he just belts it out at the top of his lungs, and all Beryl and I can do is laugh and laugh. We have a healthy little boy.
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